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Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. An Oakland A's fan, Matt has been obsessed with baseball since 1998 and started writing about the sport in 2006.

MLB.TV 2010 prices are announced

CovHlSqMLB.com has released the 2010 subscription prices for MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium today.  A subscription service once again looks like being the only way to listen to/watch MLB this season here in the UK as no free-to-air TV deal appears forthcoming.  Brits will welcome the early announcement of MLB.com’s offerings, allowing plenty of pre-season time to consider the options available (subscribing to ESPN America being the ‘TV’ choice).  

Here are the prices for the annual ‘video’ subscriptions, based on the exchange rate as it stands today:

MLB.TV Premium – £74 ($119.95)
MLB.TV – £61.60 ($99.95) 

Price increases

The promotional material for the 2009 MLB.TV launch made a big point of stressing that the prices were reduced by $10 from the 2008 level.  This year, the pricing detail is much lower down the launch article, so it’s no surprise when you get to that text and find that the prices have gone back up.

Last year’s price reduction didn’t help us much in Britain because the dollar/pound exchange rate had changed for the worse, meaning that in real terms we had to pay more in 2009 than in 2008.   Things have improved since then so despite the $10 increase, MLB.TV Premium comes in at basically the same price as what it did last year: £74.  However, the unwelcome news is that MLB.com has decided to put the standard MLB.TV package up to a record high price of $99.95.  This means that it is now just $20 cheaper than the Premium service, rather than $30 as it has been for the last 3 years or more.  The result is that Brits will pay approximately £61.60 for MLB.TV in 2010, as opposed to £54.60 last year.

New for 2010

Price increases are never welcome, but they are easier to stomach if they bring improvements to the previous service.  The promotional article does promise a media player that will “deliver a fleet of enhancements in a convenient, cutting-edge Adobe Flash format” so that’s a start; however it appears as though the MLB.TV price increase is largely based on the picture quality.  Last year, the big difference between MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium was that the latter allowed you to watch games at a higher streaming rate than the standard, producing an outstanding HD-type picture.  The ‘HD quality’ picture has now been added to the basic MLB.TV subscription, leading to an increase in the MLB.TV price and a reduction in the price gap between that subscription package and the Premium version. The additional MLB.TV Premium features are simply listed as:

  • Choice of Home or Away Broadcast
  • DVR Controls (Pause and Rewind LIVE Games)
  • Multi-Game View (Quad View, Picture in Picture, Split Screen)  

Picture quality is a primary concern for many, so allowing both subscriptions to carry the highest quality makes sense in that respect; however, the HD picture is only available to people with an Internet set-up that can cope with the bandwidth demands.  In UK terms, bearing in mind our largely shoddy broadband network, you need to have a fairly top-spec set-up to truly enjoy the benefits.  While some will welcome the news, for others (including myself) it will mean paying an extra $10 for something that can’t really be taken advantage of.  Subscribers will still be able to use the ‘Quality’ gauge to set the streaming rate to one which their system will cope with though, so you don’t need to have the top spec to watch games with a decent standard of picture quality (and I’ve always found the lower quality picture to be more than adequate, so long as you’re not expecting something crystal clear).

Value for money

2,430 games (we can watch all of them as we are not subject to any of the blackout issues that plague fans in North America) at basically £62 for the standard MLB.TV works out at approximately a quarter of a pence per game.  Now, clearly no one watches every single game in full, but I easily dip into an average of 15 per week (and being able to listen to/watch a few innings of one game, then a few of another, is a big part of the appeal for me).  That works out at paying 15p. per live game for those I access, before taking into account the Spring Training and postseason games.  There are broadband costs on top, of course, but I would be paying for those anyway.  As it is, that still represents a very good deal and a £7 increase on last year’s price doesn’t put me off renewing at all.

Whether it sounds like a good deal for you really depends on how much you are likely to use your subscription.  If you’re happy to get a smaller selection of games and enjoy watching them on a TV, then going down the ESPN America route would seem like the best bet. It’s a shame that there isn’t an MLB.TV alternative that allows people to watch a limited number of games, for example just the ESPN Sunday Night contests.  MLB.com did originally allow subscribers to pay to access individual live games, but that option was stopped a few years ago and you can see why that isn’t such an attractive proposition for MLB.com.  More to the point, national broadcasts such as those ESPN Sunday Night games are covered by ‘blackouts’ in America anyway, so it’s not something that would benefit their core market of fans in the States.

Gameday Audio and Gameday

The main alternatives to the video subscriptions last year were choosing either to listen to home and away radio feeds, or to match the radio feeds with MLB.com’s Gameday Premium service (both came as part of the MLB.TV and Premium subscriptions). Details about Gameday Audio and Gameday Premium subscriptions are currently conspicuous by their absence.  The MLB.TV subscription page mentions Gameday Audio and a new “Pitch by Pitch App”, so there may be a few changes on the horizon for Gameday. Hopefully more information on those products will be available soon. Last year they were priced at $15 (£9.30) and $20 (£12.41) respectively (note that Gameday Premium included the Gameday Audio service).

iPhones, iPads etc!

MLB.com’s subscription announcement has coincided with the much-hyped launch of the Apple iPad yesterday, at which MLB.com demonstrated a new MLB.TV app for the product.  That side of things dominates the MLB.com literature, which is great for those who have (or will have) an iPhone or an iPad, but isn’t much to get excited about for the majority of us that are somehow surviving without them. Yes, I am jealous!

 

So those are the subscription details, with the Gameday Audio and Gameday items still to come.  This will be my sixth season of using MLB.TV and, along with Gameday Audio, I can highly recommend it to any British baseball fan. 

The Spring Training games can’t start soon enough.

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16 Responses to “MLB.TV 2010 prices are announced”

  1. I loved having MLB.TV Premium last year. The HD picture quality when I was able to get it (due to ISP) was outstanding. Being able to watch any game for any team whenever you want is a great way of learning the game, the teams and the players. I’d definitely recommend the service to any baseball fan.

    Looking forward to the MLB At Bat app this year too!

    January 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm Reply
    • Matt Smith #

      Hi Andrew. Yes, the HD picture really is excellent when you can get it to work. I found that it started buffering a lot and it just made sense to turn down the quality, but the capability is there for astonishingly good quality live streaming.

      January 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm Reply
  2. Based on last year’s experiance, unless you have a broadband speed consistently above 2mb you may struggle with MLBTV.

    There was nothing more annoying last year than getting into a game and then it buffers, crashes, loses the sound etc etc.

    Last year I remember MLB TV being offered for free on the eve of the regular season. I may try it again as the service did begin to improve towards the end of last season.

    I also noticed last year that condensed games were accessible without a subscription, and I used that facility a lot, getting my morning fix over breakfast!

    Otherwise its ESPN all the way as I’m already a subscriber enjoying their current output of NBA and Premiership Footy.

    January 28, 2010 at 9:38 pm Reply
  3. Adam Brown #

    Last year, and to a lesser extent the year before, I was disappointed with the MLB.tv service. Even at the very lowest quality setting, the picture would often freeze, often drop out entirely, then tell me the game was unavailable. Frustratingly it seemed to happen almost exclusively on red sox games; if I was happy to watch something else that would work fine. Perhaps I will upgrade this year to premium and see if its any better.

    January 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm Reply
  4. I’m glad the price didn’t increase much over last year. I thought it was good (the premium) but it sometimes would have a glitch in it on my laptop. I’m sure they’ll improve the quality this year… tho maybe it was my laptop

    January 29, 2010 at 4:58 am Reply
  5. Shame the price has gone up, but for day-to-day baseball from Spring to Autumn it is still incredible value for money.

    As much as new features would be welcome, I hope they don’t mess about with the player too much, as that seems to inevitably lead to teething problems in the first weeks of the season.

    I’m not sure there’s enough in the premium package to convince me, will perhaps hold off for a short while to see what else they may (or may not) throw in.

    Either way, bring on Spring Training!

    January 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm Reply
  6. Jimbob #

    The HD streaming is impressive only when it works, but the inability to download entire games is frustrating. Watching downloaded HD content on an Ipad as I commute in the morning would be bliss.

    January 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm Reply
  7. Matt Smith #

    Thanks for the comments.

    As noted in my article, how well MLB.TV works depends on many factors that will be different for different people, so it’s very useful to share experiences. I’ve read forum posts by people in the States who have been frothing at the mouth and claiming they will sue MLB.com because of how bad the product is, and after five years as a subscriber I can’t even begin to recognise those complaints (the U.S. do have the often crazy blackout rules to contend with though).

    There’s an argument that if you pay for MLB.TV then you should expect it to work well all the time and I can understand that to an extent (although MLB.com make it very clear that performance is dependent on the user’s own set-up). MLB.TV normally works for me, even if that means turning down the quality which you can do much more easily now, and if it won’t play ball then I happily just switch to the Gameday Audio feed (which you pay for as part of the package).

    When it comes down to it, I’m a baseball fan in the UK and I will never cease to be in love with the idea that I can follow live any MLB game I’m interested in, rather than simply getting a handful of pre-chosen games (often involving the same teams, as the ESPN Sunday Night schedule for 2010 shows). I’m more than happy to find the cash to pay for it and to put up with a few glitches along the way.

    January 30, 2010 at 11:49 am Reply
  8. Matt Smith #

    And to comment on a few specific points raised above …!

    Matthew makes an excellent point about the condensed games. Even if you don’t buy a subscription, MLB.com still offers lots of coverage for free that’s well worth taking advantage of.

    There is normally a trial period or two with MLB.TV (sometimes letting you watch a selection of Spring Training games live, sometimes opening it up for a few days at the start of the season etc) and you should definitely look out for them. The only way to really evaluate how well it will work for you is to actually use the product, which isn’t a great option if you have no choice but to shell out for the annual subscription (cancelling subscriptions and such is reportedly a bit of a nightmare, although that sadly seems to be common place with most things these days!).

    Steve – like you I’m not convinced that the additional Premium features are greatly appealing so I’m probably going to save myself the £12 or so and stick with the standard. Last year they did the offer whereby you could get Premium plus an ESPN Insider subscription bundled together for a discounted price, so that might make it more attractive if they repeat the deal.

    January 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm Reply
  9. owen #

    I am thinking of getting this package when the season starts. Who do you all in the UK have your internet with? I am currently with SKY but may have to change to make this package work. I guess you need a hi down load limit?

    Cheers

    January 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm Reply
  10. Jimbob #

    Owen, as I understand it there’s no download option available on MLB TV. You can only watch games through the streaming video facility.

    January 31, 2010 at 8:30 pm Reply
  11. Matt Smith #

    Hi Owen. I’ve been on PlusNet for several years now and they seem to work okay, although as mentioned I’m not able to get the full HD quality picture without it buffering to a standstill. Obviously, you’re looking to get the best package you can afford really.

    February 1, 2010 at 7:54 pm Reply
  12. owen #

    Thanks guys for your advice. I am thinking I may connect the laptop via a hdmi cord to the TV and be able to watch the games of my choice. Will beat having to watch Hollyoaks which I am subjected to most evenings!!
    Hope they do have some spring training games as I do like watching the players of tomoro playing in these games.

    February 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm Reply
  13. Ben #

    Does anyone know if the MLB.com At Bat 2010 application can be accessed from the United Kingdom on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. I ask because I own none of these products but would definately be willing to purchase them in order to get the application and keep up with Baseball on the move.

    I was wondering if the streaming video will be available to watch in the UK because the main service carriers in the States (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are not available in England.

    February 21, 2010 at 4:40 am Reply

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